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RAF chief takes to the sky in Argentine Air Force fighter-bomber

Wednesday, December 11th 2002 - 20:00 UTC
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On the last of his three day visit to Argentina, Royal Air Force Chief of the Air Staff Sir Peter Squire yesterday flew an Argentine Mirage fighter bomber similar to those used to attack British Task Force vessels in San Carlos waters during May 1982.

Squire, a decorated Falklands war veteran, was accompanied by the Argentine Air Force's newly appointed Secretary General, Brigadier Horacio Mir Gonzalez, who is himself a former Dagger pilot who flew combat missions during the 1982 war.

The RAF chief toured the Tandil Air base, home of the VI Air Brigade, one of Argentina front line air defence units based 200 miles south of Buenos Aires. During the 1982 war the VI Air Brigade was redeployed to bases in Tierra del Fuego from where it flew over 100 combat missions losing 11 aircraft and five pilots including Lt. Jose Ardiles, a cousin of soccer ace Ossie Ardiles.

At Tandil Squire was met by the head of the VI Air Brigade, Comodoro Carlos Moreno, another 1982 Dagger veteran whose dramatic photographs of his aircraft attacking the Royal Navy County Class destroyer HMS Antrim in Bomb Alley on 21 May 1982 went round the world.

After a briefing on the activities carried out at air defence base during which Squire exchanged views with his local counterparts on the current capabilities of the Air Brigade enquiring about a range of topics ranging from budgets, training, aircraft, expectations, etc, Squire was shown a film on the activities carried out at the base.

The VI Air Brigade is divided into three Squadrons flying Mirage IIIs and Mirage Vs as well as Israeli developed Mirage Vs, known locally as Daggers.

Later in the day Squire donned his flying kit and took to the skies in a two seat Mirage V piloted by Mayor Marcelo Cattani with whom he was able to test the aircraft's capabilities flying at high altitude and carrying out a series acrobatic manoeuvres.

On landing an obviously delighted Squire defined the flight as having been "very good" after which he was invited to sign the guest pilot of honour book and raised his glass in a toast with his hosts.

At a separate ceremony Moreno handed Squire a batch of documents recovered by the Air Force on 4 May 1982 after a Sea Harrier from Nº 800 Naval Air Squadron was shot down by Air Force anti aircraft fire while attacking Argentine positions at Goose Green killing its pilot, Lieutenant Nick Taylor RN. Among the papers returned to Squire were Taylor's personal and flight documents found at the site where his aircraft crashed at the side of the Goose Green airfield.

Squire also met Hector Cisneros, head of the Families Commission responsible for raising the funds needed to build the monument to the war dead at the Argentine Cemetery at Darwin who thanked the RAF chief for the contribution made last week by four serving RAF servicemen who cycled from Chile to Argentina to raise funds for the monument. "I am sure a lot of people in the UK will contribute to this project" he told Cisneros asking him to extend his condolences to the other family members.

After the 1982 the VI Air Brigade was reorganised and it merged with several other units as one of the main air defence base flying an assortment of delta wing aircraft of the Dassault Breguet Mirage series, namely French-made Mirage IIIs and Israeli Daggers which are currently deployed as fighter bombers and Mirage Vs - purchased during the 1982 war from Peru - as interceptors.

Consulted by MercoPress Argentine Air Force sources today rated Squire's visit as a "great success" and "another milestone in the ever-improving relations between the Armed Forces of both countries."

"We are extremely pleased with this visit and grateful that Sir Peter, who is an extremely busy person, should have found the time to visit us. We value this gesture enormously, specially as it come from a man who like so many of us, is also a Malvinas War veteran."

Nicholas Tozer ? (MP) Buenos Aires

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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